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- That Printer of Udell's - 40/49 -
weeping like a child.
Never, though he lived to be an old man, could Dick look back upon that night and the days following, without turning pale. How he lived through it he never knew. Perhaps it was because he had suffered so much in his checkered career that he was enabled to bear that which otherwise would have been impossible. And the consciousness of the great change in his own life led him to hope for Amy, when others would have given up in despair.
On his tour of study and investigation for the Association, he had presented his letters to the Salvation Army people, and had been warmly welcomed by them, as is everyone who manifests a desire to help humanity. Every kindness and courtesy was shown him, and at the invitation of the captain, he had gone with them on one of their regular rescue trips. He had donned the uniform of the Army, for greater convenience and safety; for the blue and red of these soldiers of the cross is received and honored in places where no ordinary church member, whatever be his professed purpose, would be admitted.
While Dick and his friends planned for Amy's future, Sarah, the Salvation girl, remained by her bedside caring for her as a sister. Not one hint of reproach or censure fell from her lips; only words of loving kindness, of hope and courage. At first the poor girl refused to listen, but sobbing wildly, cried that her life was ruined, that she could only go on as she had started, and begged that they leave her alone in her disgrace and sin.
But Sarah herself could say, "I know sister, I have been through it all; and if Jesus could save me he can save you too." So at last love and hope conquered; and as soon as she was strong enough, she left the place and went with Sarah to the latter's humble home. There Dick called to see her.
"Mr. Falkner," she said, sadly, after the pain and embarrassment of the first meeting had passed off a little. "I do not understand; what makes you do these things?"
And Dick answered, "Did I not tell you once that nothing could make me change; that nothing you could do would make me less your friend? You might, for the time being, make it impossible for me to help you, but the desire, the wish, was there just the same, and sought only an opportunity to express itself. And besides this," he added gently, "you know I'm a Christian now."
Amy hung her head. "Yes," she said slowly, "you are a Christian. These Salvation soldiers are Christians too; and I--I--am--oh, Mr. Falkner, help me now. Be indeed my friend. Tell me what to do. I cannot go back home like this. I do believe in Christ and that He sent you to me. I'm so tired of this world, for I know the awfulness of it now; and these good people have taught me that one can live close to Christ, even in the most unfavorable circumstances."
Dick told her of their plan; how his friend, the captain, had arranged for her to live with his brother on a farm in northern Missouri, and that they only wanted her consent to start at once. Would she go?
"But how can I? I have no money, and I have never been taught to work."
"Miss Goodrich," answered Dick, "can you not trust me?"
Amy was silent.
"You must let me help you in this. Thank God, I can do it now. Prove to me that you are still my friend, by letting me make this investment for Christ. Will you?"
The next day they bade good-bye to the sturdy soldiers of the cross who had been so true to them, and started on their westward journey.
Dick saw Amy safe in her new home, and then with a promise that she would write to him regularly, and an agreement that he would send her letters and papers addressed to the people with whom she lived, he left her; satisfied that she was in kind hands, and that a new life was open before her.
But when Dick was once more aboard the train, alone with his thoughts, without the anxiety for Amy's immediate welfare upon his mind, the struggle of his life began. He loved Amy dearly; had loved her almost from the moment she came into George Udell's printing office three years ago; loved her in spite of the difference in their position, when he was only a tramp and she was the favored daughter of wealth; when he was an unbeliever and she was a worker in the church; loved her when he saw her losing her hold on the higher life and drifting with the current; loved her when she left home, and as he thought, honor behind. And he was forced to confess, in his own heart, that he loved her yet, in spite of the fact that their positions were reversed; that he was an honored gentleman, respected and trusted by all, while she, in the eyes of the world, was a fallen woman with no friend but himself.
But what of the future? Dick's dreams had always been that he would win such a position in the world as would enable him, with confidence, to ask her to share his life. But always there had been the feeling that he never could be worthy. And with the dark picture of his own past before him, he knew he had no right to think of her as his wife. But now there was no question as to his position. But what of hers? Could he think of taking for a wife, one whom he had seen in that house at Cleveland? On the one hand, his love plead for her; on the other, the horror of her life argued against it. Again his sense of justice plead, and his own life came before him like a horrid vision as it had done that morning when he learned of his father's death. He saw his childhood home, smelt the odor of the fragrant pines upon the hills, and heard the murmur of the river running past the cabin. Again he heard his drunken father cursing in his sleep, and caught the whisper of his mother's dying prayer; and again he crept stealthily out of the cabin into the glory of the morning, with a lean hound his only companion.
Slowly and painfully he traced his way along the road of memory, recalling every place where he had advanced; every place where he had fallen; going step by step from the innocence of boyhood to the awful knowledge of the man of the world. He had fought, had fallen, had conquered and risen again; always advancing toward the light, but always bearing on his garment the smell of the fire, and upon his hands the stain of the pitch. And now, because he was safe at last and could look back upon those things, should he condemn another? Would not Amy also conquer, and when she _had_ conquered, by what right could he demand in her that which he had not in himself? Christ would as freely welcome her as He had welcomed him. Christianity held out as many glorious hopes for her as for him. Her past might be past as well as his. Why should he not shut the door upon it forever, and live only in the present and future? And then his mind fell to picturing what that future, with Amy by his side, might be. They were equals now, before God and their own consciences. What should he care for the world?
And so the fight went on in the battle-ground of his inner life, until the whistle blew a long blast for the station, and looking from the window of the car, he saw the smelter smoke and dust of Boyd City.
John Barton and his wife, Anna, with whom Amy was to make her home for a while, could fully sympathize with the girl in her sad position, though one would never dream that the quiet, reserved John knew more of life than of his pigs and cattle, or that his jolly-faced, motherly companion had ever been beyond the quiet fields that surrounded her simple dwelling. Years before, they had been rescued from the world in which Amy had so nearly perished, by the same kind hand that had been stretched out to her, the Salvation Army; and now well on in middle life, happy and prosperous, they showed scarce a trace of the trouble that had driven them to labor on a farm. As hired help, they had gained their experience, and by ceaseless industry and careful economy, had at last come to own the place where they now lived. With no child of her own, Mrs. Barton took a mother's place in Amy's life from the first, and was very patient with the girl who had never been taught to do the simplest household task. Amy returned the loving kindness full measure, and, determined to be a help to those who so much helped her, advanced rapidly in the knowledge of her homely duties. Dressed in the plain working garb of a farm girl, with arms bare and face flushed by the heat of the kitchen, one would scarcely have recognized in her the beautiful young woman who moved with Boyd City's society leaders, or the brilliant novice who stood hesitating at the entrance to a life of sin in Madam's wine-rooms; and certainly, one would never have classed the bright eyes, plump cheeks, and well-rounded figure, with the frightened, starving, haggard thing that roamed about the streets of Cleveland a few short months before.
But great as was the change in Amy's outward appearance, the change within was even greater. She was no longer the thoughtless, proud, pleasure-loving belle that her parents had trained; nor was she the hard, reckless, hopeless creature that the world had made. But she was a woman now, with a true woman's interest and purpose in life. The shallow brilliance of the society girl had given place to thoughtful earnestness, and the dreary sadness of the outcast had changed to bright hopefulness.
One warm day in June, Mrs. Barton laid the last neatly ironed garment on the big pile of clothes nearby, and noisily pushing her irons to the back of the stove, cried, "Thank goodness, that's the last of that for this week." And "Thank goodness, that's the last of that," exclaimed Amy, mimicking the voice of her friend as she threw out the dishwater and hung the empty pan in its place.
Anna wiped the perspiration from her steaming face. "Come on; let's get out of this Inferno for a while and do our patching in the shade. I shall melt if I stay here a minute longer." And the two were soon seated in their low chairs on the cool porch, with a big basket of mending between them.
"Hello, there's our man back from town already," suddenly exclaimed Anna a few minutes later, as her husband drove into the barnyard; then with a mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes, she called, "Hurry up, John, Amy wants her letter." John smiled in his quiet way as he came up to the porch and handed the girl an envelope with the Boyd City postmark. Then the old people both laughed at the other's pretty confusion when Anna, rising, said in her teasing voice, "Come on hubby, I'll fix your dinner. We've kept it warm. Can't you see the selfish thing wants to be alone with her treasure?"
But when Mrs. Barton returned to her mending, after a long talk with her husband, her jolly face wore an expression of seriousness that was unusual, and she failed to notice that Amy's hands were idle and her work was lying untouched in her lap as she sat looking wistfully far away across the sunlit meadows and pastures.
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